Lexington’s Fraternal Order of Police has taken its case for hiring more officers before city leaders. The emotional debate Tuesday included comments on escalating pension costs, and a collective bargaining impasse. FOP President Mike Sweeney says a look at crime statistics should be cause for alarm. “Several months ago the FOP began noticing a very disturbing trend…a trend that there’s a significant rise in crime in Fayette County and a continuous decline in the number of police officers..protecting the city…and this has led to some very alarming statistics,” said Sweeney. The FOP says crime went up 20 percent from 2007 to 2011. But Urban County Council member Doug Martin says a great deal of city resources go to support police salaries and pensions.
“We’re spending a lot of money..we’ve increased the amount that we’re spending… by tens of millions of dollars…and yet we’re not getting more protection out of it,” said Martin.
Lexington Mayor Jim Gray says police pension costs and collective bargaining issues desperately need attention. Gray says other city workers are also committed to their jobs.
“Just like police officers, we do our job..we take an oath to the citizens of our community,” said Gray.
Urban County Council member K.C. Crosby says efforts to curb overtime pay can impact police presence.
“It’s my understanding that when some officers on their shifts might take somebody to jail and it takes them over on their scheduled time that they make up that time by not coming in..just they might start later the next day… two hours which them leaves us with less officers on the street,” added Crosby.
Council member Jay McChord says it’s important to move forward with a plan to address minimum staffing, recruitment, and cost issues.
“I would encourage anybody that needs to meet…to meet..and for us to move this thing forward because the morale is through the floorboards…for everybody and I recognize that…I see it in your faces out there and I see it in your e-mails,” said McChord.
Public Safety Commissioner Clay Mason says people shouldn’t consider Lexington an un-safe city. He says much of the increase in crime is in burglaries, many he believes tied to a tough economy.